In a recent entry on his Human Nature Blog, William Saletan called attention to the "Ashley Treatment"—a medical procedure designed to freeze the physical development of brain-damaged children. SpecialParent, whose child is a candidate for the treatment, writes in to defend the procedure from its detractors:
We were overjoyed to learn about the "Ashley Treatment," or growth attenuation. […] A billion dollars could not bring as much happiness to our child in goods and services as being small and cuddled like the baby she believes she is. Attenuating her growth would not violate the Hippocratic Oath; to the contrary, NOT attenuating her growth would knowingly cause her increasing distress and unhappiness as her "activities" became limited per her size ("activities" including cuddling and holding and carrying, given her immobility), not to mention the increasing chance of injury to her during care and transfers. Like some children with brain damage, her head is infant-sized and will never grow. While we don't care if society is uncomfortable seeing an adult with an infant-sized head, we do care that her tiny nasal passages already labor to provide enough oxygen to a child. And what about her infant-sized feet that do not grow with the rest of her, how will they support an adult body? Given the stature of other family members, she may very well be six feet tall in adulthood.
The arguments that parents will stunt their children's growth willy-nilly are exaggerated and ignorant. Before our child's growth might ever be attenuated we will have to convince an ethics panel of dozens of medical professionals, who will be looking for every reason why not. There will not be growth-stunting clinics on every street corner. The arguments that we should let nature take its course, that we shouldn't fix the child to compensate for society's shortcomings, or that we shouldn't take any measures for "convenience" are hypocritical. Babies are created and selected by fertilization, birth dates planned, induced, born by C-section, fed formula, and scheduled for convenience. As they grow older, their short stature is enhanced, tonsils are removed, and plastic surgery performed to correct anything nature didn't do right or to be more acceptable to society. […] No matter how utopian our society, our daughter would still be happier child-sized so that she can be close to us, as I imagine Ashley will be. […]
Thank you to Ashley's family for voluntarily subjecting themselves to worldwide public scrutiny. They have given us hope that our child may be happy and healthy in life, and that's what every parent wants.
Fraysters have taken positions for and against the use of this procedure, but both sides seem to agree that the whole concept is unsettling. Eigenvector (not a fan), exclaims: "this is not Eugenics, this is something out of an H.P. Lovecraft story." Caromer (a supporter) concedes "'pillow angel' is a creepy term."
To marylb, the case of "Ashley X" says more about the medical profession than about parents:
To me the issue is about the medical community acting on expediency, which is ethically troubling. That parents of children with needs are left with few alternatives is certainly true, but does that mean the known reality of these children growing up should be altered? Where is the line drawn for the medical community if indeed expediency is factored in and the medical world tries to make up for lack of services? Where is the definitive line drawn that controls the medical concept?
I only know that I don't know the answer.
Amen to that. If you have thoughts on this subject, please share them with us in the Human Nature Fray. GA … 12:05am PT
Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007
Responding to Daniel Gross' largely optimistic assessment of Whole Foods' potential for profitability despite recent declines in its stock price, some Fraysters took great interest—and in some cases, pleasure—in analyzing the chain's downturn.
In this top 10 list of reasons not to buy Whole Foods' stock, baltimore-aureole points out the "inherently limited … number of people willing to pay $5 a pound for tomatoes which are indistinguishable from non-organic," the absence of "local advertising," "lousy locations," and the need to shop elsewhere for mainstream and practical items such as "diet coke, chicken nuggets, and detergent, etc." johnboy779 highlights the affordability of Trader Joe's "as a significant reason why Whole Foods is taking such a hit" in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. messyONE unleashes an extended diatribe over its "cramped, dirty, and crowded" shopping venues and the frequently "rotting produce" in its bins, while diogene cites larger economic trends for the chain's recent slump: "meager economic recovery of the past 5 years has been consumer-driven all the way, and the consumer--even the affluent consumer--is feeling more than a little tapped out by now."
Pondering the connection between food and spirituality, revrick seeks to explain Whole Food's success in appealing to the holier-than-thou "devotees of vegetarianism and organic foods":
The whole premise behind stores like Whole Foods is that it manages to pull off making two contradictory claims at once. On the one hand, there is Thorstein Veblen's conspicuous consumption at work here. Shopping at Whole Foods says to the world, "I'm so rich, I can blow scads of money buying over-priced produce." On the other hand, there is a gnostic, elitist denial-of-the-world ethic involved as well. "I shop at Whole Foods, because I am a spirtually evolved sort, who can discern the difference between the pure and the impure, the superior and the inferior. Lesser breeds shop at Redners, I get what's good at Whole Foods."
Thanks to Food TV, says marylb, we've witnessed the popularization of gourmet tastes that will continue to fuel the growth of high-end food purveyors in suburban and rural middle America. On the other end of the demographic spectrum, Isonomist- praises the adaptability of Whole Foods to the urban market of New York City:
WF took a risk parking themselves in our gentrifying neighborhood, because there's literally no parking anywhere nearby. So you can only buy what you can carry home, unless you want delivery. They've attenuated the selection, there's no bulk section and you could probably fit the whole grocery section into one corner of your local WF. They just know what we feel like eating, and what we're willing to pay for it. Doesn't sound like much of a model, but in practice, it's the most popular square footage in our area of town.
For the detractors in the crowd, it's worth checking out this March 2006 Slate article on Whole Foods and "the darks secrets of the organic food movement" Promptly report to Moneybox Fray afterwards to share your thoughts. AC … 11:05am PT
Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007
Ignorance really is bliss. The Fray has taught me many things I was happier not knowing, like the toddler's terror of flush toilets. Responses to Emily Yoffe's Fine Whine have been another teaching experience for this baldish guy without kids. Teachers are clearly filling their students' heads with something—even if it is just a nasty case of nits.
Wondering aloud, rundeep asks:
How can you have a school-age child and not know that lice are back, bigtime? There's been more ink on the topic than on the bedbug scare in New York City. The lack of strong pesticides in our lives may have had something to do with both. [...]
TheRanger provides a pretty convincing account for the new epidemic's root:
According to schools, lice are transmitted by:
1. Trading combs
2. Trading hats
3. Contact person to person [...]
Hmmmm. Let look at the transmission list. How many 4th grade boys even own a comb much less use one? [...] Elementary classrooms tend to have coat rooms where the clothing is in immediate close proximity to the infected persons clothing for extended periods of time. Do lice really jump from one person to another? Doubtful that transmission happens this way compared to the coat room.
So why do schools promote these myths? [...] Because the school made him store his coat next to Jane who has lice. The school faces liability exposure, not to mention the problem of sending home discovered cases. The cost of treating lice is expensive with repetitive shampoos and bedding treatment, especially when reinfection happens again and again in the classroom. Of course the school will tell you that you botched the treatment which made it ineffective.
There is only one sure treatment for bedding and stuffed animals. Bag them in a sealed plastic bag for 3-4 weeks. This intrerupts the life cycle of the lice which requires feeding on a host.
The Fray is veritably swarming with low-cost treatment suggestions.
taki_girl suggests a robi comb—"a little battery powered electronic lice comb. When turned on, it makes a buzzing noise, and as you comb thru the hair, it shocks the lice and kills them when it touches them. it also stops buzzing when it touches a louse, so you know when you've gotten one."
rundeep can get the job done with a jar of mayo: "cover the head with mayonnaise or other heavy oil, and let it on there for a while. It drowns the little guys, is at least as effective as the Nix, and is, of course, a more organic solution."
Less exotically, nanfw recommends using hair conditioner: "A simple technique is using plain old hair conditioner and a very fine tooth comb. When conditioner is applied to dry hair, it temporarily stuns the lice so they are easily removed! [...] The lice are immobilized by the conditioner and easily removed, and the nits are fairly easy to find too. I have had to do this a couple of times with my son, and once with one of his friends who showed up for a weeklong visit with the worst infestation I have ever seen."
On a cautionary note, LannonMac warns against rubbing alcohol:
In my case I had genital lice, which I picked up at the YMCA. [...] My infestation took place in the pre-internet era, so I had very little information regarding killing lice, but I knew that rubbing alcohol will kill almost anything, so I doused my nether regions with rubbing alcohol (I must stress that this should NOT BE DONE!). As one might imagine the pain of rubbing alcohol on the genitals is severe, but it did appear to kill the little bastards.
After the pain subsided I called my Father for his sagely advice on killing genital livestock and was informed that alcohol was not going to kill the eggs. [...] I followed his instructions, as well as setting off several bug bombs in my apartment, and destroyed the little varmints.
Watch this space for the promised sequel—LannonMac versus the bed bugs.
Is there anything you can do to head this whole hassle off at the pass? Gilker_Kimmel angrily suggests the infested family can save us all a headache by canceling their travel plans:
I have no sympathy or patience with willful ignorance or the spread of vermin. [...] If the Yoffe family were at home, the problem would have been a shrug off. Kids - and sometimes adults -bring home lice. It happens. It's unfortunate, but it happens. You deal with it by carefully treating all clothing, bed linen, pillows, stuffed toys, carpets, and most especially PEOPLE! Nobody gets a pass because nitpicking is a lost art.
But when lice were found on the road, the Yoffe's apparently did nothing to warn their hosts, familial and commercial, of the potential for contamination.
Contracting head lice is no shame. Contracting head lice and going into denial is dumb. Contracting head lice and then trying to pretend that they are not a consideration for family, friends and travel accommodation providers is not just a shame but is shamefully irresponsible.
If you'd rather take a proactive stance, you might teach your kids the trick observed by topazz:
When my oldest daughter was in grade school, there was a lice outbreak one winter, and parents were going out of their minds about it. [...] My daughter rode a school bus that was pretty crowded, they had to sit 3 to a seat. Everyone was eyeballing everyone else's heads for any signs of movement, and paranoia ran wild.
One enterprising kid took matters into his own hands, so to speak - rather than risk sitting so close next to another kid and possibly have one of the little critters jump on board, he picked the snot right out of his nose and drew a mucousy wet line around the perimeter of his seat.
Do you really need all this information? If there's any lesson to be learned from Caromer's emphatic contribution, your kid's first experience with vectors isn't likely to be in algebra:
Given the option of all the worrying and crying and washing and shampooing and doctor's calls and school notifications...vs. a little scratching...I'd gladly take the head lice every time!!!
Everything you don't want to know can be found in the Fine Whine Fray. GA … 12:00am PST
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006
Mincing words? How else to describe an essay which dissects the case against Mary Cheney and endorses gay parenthood? Respondents to William Saletan's latest Human Nature cover the field on the "Double Mommy Front" of the Culture Wars.
Speaking up for the status quo, nicekitty adopts a stance too inert to call reactionary:
Deep down inside something in my gut says "two mommies is bad for kids." It may not be logical, it may be absolutely wrong. But all of those Southern Baptist preachers, that military brat upbringing, being in the military, and my grandmothers left an imprint that is hard to shake. But unlike those moralists that Saletan is speaking of, I am not so fervent or for that matter so convinced that my gut is right that I am willing to get out there and make life hell for those who believe otherwise.
Tracker takes umbrage at the suggestion fathers are bad for children:
Every kid has the prima facie right to grow up with his mom and dad. [...] Any kid would gladly take his or her own screwed up Dad over someone else's Father of the Year. It matters to children that they come to be who they are through the training of their biological parents. [...]
Conservatives don't want government telling everyone what to do, but when society gets as screwed up as it has, their last resort is to start urging the making of laws and amendments to keep families sound. Simply because traditional families have problems doesn't mean Mary Cheney is right to get a child by sperm donation, or however she got it, and raise that child in her preferred setting. She hasn't got the right to demean the child's father that way, and her child will most likely resent her deeply for it. [...] Mary has demeaned Fatherhood, and the actual father of her child.
From the perspective of a gay man, uh-huhh is bothered by Saletan's flip conclusion that men are bad for kids:
I was astonished that, in his next to last paragraph, he chose to conclude his piece by attacking gay male parents: "You want to protect kids? Here's my proposed constitutional amendment: 'Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union involving at least one woman.'" That, of course, would mean banning only gay male marriages. WTF?
Was Mr. Saletan just being tongue-in-cheek and looking for a clever close? I assume so, since nothing in his piece supports any claim about gay male parents. [...] To the uninitiated, Mr. Saletan blamed gay men for misbehaviors overwhelmingly committed by straight men (e.g., sexual assault by a mother's live-in boyfriend), validated attacks by the most trite and extreme radical feminists on gay male couples, and reinforced ugly stereotypes that the Family Research Council loves to stoke about gay men as pedophiles and incompetent parents. How clever!
Arguing that single-parent families are unfairly maligned, plusgurl thinks their rise has burnished the luster of the nuclear unit:
I was happy to see this piece until I stumbled onto the portion that states how we all know that 2 parents are always better than one. Is this a neo-con agenda? [...]
Men continue to do diddly squat on the domestic front, forcing many progressive mothers to put these evolutionary relics out to pasture. Children are better in families with one functional person who is not being exploited by a man - especially if she is raising a son and this is his primary role model. [...] One committed and loving parent is preferable to the "thing on the couch" role modeling sexist dysfunctionality.
RMLReturns takes feckless straights to task for enabling "alternative families":
Gay parents have been welcomed with open arms by state child custody services because these people work hard at being parents and will often take kids other parents will not-handicapped or abused or unstable kids. My wife is heavily involved with adoption issues and knows many cases of gay parents taking on the challenge of being parents to kids their own parents wouldn't keep because of serious disabilities. Just imagine being a paraplegic or having some other awful disabling condition and your own mom and dad give you up for adoption......
Olcott_Beach shares a harrowing tale of life as a stepchild:
I was born into what would have been considered a normal family; the youngest of three and I know, initially, that we were all wanted. [...] My mother passed away one-week before my fifth birthday and my father married the women he had been keeping company with while my mother was on her death bed.
By today's standards; his second wife would have been diagnosed as psychotic. Being the youngest, and not altogether the brightest, I became the family punching bag with the daily mind games and taunts.
This woman's entertainment—mind games with a six-year old, was dismissed as "just joking" but the hate was born like a spreading cancer. I have no "family values" and the word "father" and "mother" really has no meaning.
As I read this story I could not help but wonder what it would have been like to have two, loving parents. Or even one who would have provided a single word of encouragement.
So far, the only party escaping blame appears to be the children (although, blame for what isn't very clear). If you'd like to add some balance to the debate, or simply take a closer look, please direct your attention to the Human Nature Fray. GA … 1:37am PST
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006
Jacob Weisberg's assertion that the strangeness of Mormon beliefs should and will give the American electorate pause in considering Mitt Romney's 2008 candidacy for president revealed the familiar fault lines of religion and politics.
CalLawyer thinks we should take all claims of religious belief by politicians with a grain of salt: "Sure, most politicians and public figures claim to believe in their religion. But this is a charade, and an extremely elaborate one."
On the question of true believers, Bionerd emphasizes the human mind's ability to perform intellectual compartmentalization:
Folks who think that those who hold irrational beliefs shouldn't be trusted with jobs, like President, that require complex rational thought underestimate the extent to which people are capable of compartmentalizing irrational belief so it doesn't interfere with their ability to interact with the world in a completely rational manner or to solve complex real world problems.
Weisberg is wrong to assume that someone who truly believes absurd things like virgin births, angelic visitations, partings of seas, and other "transparent frauds" is necessarily dogmatic or irrational in contexts outside of personal religious observance, or that such a person fails to think for himself or see the world as it really is. Most believers who've given it much thought will concede that what they believe doesn't have much rational basis. But they choose to believe anyways because it helps them make sense of the world, gives them a sense of purpose, provides a foundation for family strength, or any other number of personal reasons.
For AspiringSkeptic here, Weisberg's piece is less of a dig at Mormonism than it is an effort to determine whether Romney "is the type of man like G.W. Bush who may put faith and 'gut feeling' before logic, science, and reason."
Azathoth is the first to characterize most religions as kooky but doesn't think we should single out Mormonism: "It is easy to find open holes in any religion, picking on one and pretending the others are OK is not honest or fair." Similarly, viqtohr criticizes Weisberg's scrutiny of Mormonism as "totally arbitrary," given that all religions are irrational to some degree:
The only thing that the passage of time does to religious myths is give them an air of respectability. The more ridiculous tenets of Mormonism only feel more absurd to us than Biblical stories because they allegedly happened so recently. In religious services, the preacher doesn't focus on the strange idiosyncrasies of dogma, but on how to live a "holy" life and find true happiness. That's what religion is actually about.
The candidate's willingness to separate politics and religion is really what's important, writesBaba: "The question isn't whether or not a candidate is a believer in this or that religion (or none). It's whether or not he/she will try to impose his/her beliefs on the rest of us." For donq, the religious test for office should take a more comprehensive view of the individual candidate's background and accomplishments:
Romney is not the first candidate with unique religious beliefs. Eisenhower grew up in the church that was the forerunner to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Nixon was a Quaker. Barack Obama has a background in the Muslim faith.
Religion has always been a way of explaining an endermatic universe. We should not choose our national leader based on adherence to a more ancient and venerated irrationality than her opponent. The only rational religious question for a national leader is "does the person's belief interfere or assist the candidate." As Jesus said "by there fruits ye shall know them." Let's judge Romney and all other candidates on their life and what they have done. Romney is intelligent. First in his class out of Harvard. His life's work has involved turning around struggling companies. He did a great job with the winter Olympics and as a Governor. I am sure not every one agrees with these points. But that is what we should be talking about.
Contribute your ideas in The Big Idea. AC … 7:32am PT